Your memories have a place here
CorteMaderaMemories.org is a website dedicated to preserving our small town's heritage and history as reflected in written stories, articles, books, and memoirs, as well as in photographs, artwork, memorabilia, recordings, and more. It was established by the Foundation during Corte Madera's Centennial anniversary in 2016. Everyone who has something to share about life in Corte Madera, past or present, is welcome to contribute their own memories, photos, stories, memorabilia, or other documents for inclusion on the website. It's a work in progress, starting with the early history of the town, vintage photographs, plus individual memoirs as well as recorded interviews done in past years, along with a collection of more recent photographs that will eventually have captions added.
Back in 1976, when the Corte Madera Heritage & History Group (CMH&HG) was formed during the American Bicentennial year, a group of about fifteen original members led by Gerrie Reichard requested Town support for starting a collection of local history photographs, artifacts, and stories about our town’s early years. With encouragement from the Town, they and others in the community who had a passion for local history began having monthly meetings to plan research efforts and share information.
Gerrie had been a professional photographer with a full darkroom in her basement, and she began contacting longtime residents and making appointments to visit them in their homes and make copies of their photographs, accompanied by another CMH&HG member who would take notes to record their memories. That way, no one had to let treasured photographs out of their possession, and it was possible to collect the stories that went with the photos.
The CMH&HG had no funding sources, so expenses were covered by members of the group. The CMH&HG’s projects included publishing a calendar featuring photos of historic homes, creating displays of historic photos in vacant storefronts at the Town Center, visiting classrooms to teach about local history, presenting slideshows at meetings of civic groups, leading field trip to historic sites, sponsoring informational walks through historic neighborhoods, hosting teas in historic homes, hand-stitching a quilt featuring scenes from local history, participating in a panel discussion at the library about what life was like in Corte Madera during the Great Depression, arranging for a display of enlarged historic photos at the Marin Civic Center gallery, writing articles about local history for the Twin Cities Times, and more.
During the 1991 celebration of Corte Madera’s 75th anniversary, the CMH&HG was a valuable participant in the festivities, providing lists and contact information for people who lived in Corte Madera prior to WWII, who would be invited to a special “Diamond Jubilee” gala in their honor. CMH&HG members video-interviewed guests at the event, assembled archival materials for displays, and produced packets of historic postcards along with a commemorative poster as giveaways.
Within the following decade, many members of the CMH&HG either moved away or passed away, including Gerrie Reichard, who died in an automobile accident in the late 1990s. By then, Gerrie and I were the last active members of the CMH&HG. After her death, Gerrie’s husband, Ken Reichard, handed over all the Corte Madera Heritage & History Group’s archival materials, which had been kept in the basement of their home, to me for preservation. Since I didn’t have access to a darkroom, I suggested that the CMH&HG negatives be turned over to the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Marin County Civic Center Library for safekeeping.
Fulfilling Gerrie’s often expressed wish that the CMH&HG would publish a book on the history of Corte Madera that contained her photographs and the stories, I devoted a year to selecting and editing historic content with help from Richard Bloch. The Corte Madera Community Foundation agreed to publish the book, A History of Corte Madera – Weaving into the Flow of Time and Place, in 2002, with the intent to make it as widely available to the community as possible after publishing costs were recovered. With that in mind, a free PDF version of the 193-page book, A History of Corte Madera – Weaving into the Flow of Time and Place, is downloadable from the Corte Madera Memories website.
A sequel to A History of Corte Madera was envisioned at one point, but it became apparent that the more important task was to ensure the permanent preservation of all the CMH&HG’s archival materials. The CMH&HG was officially dissolved as a 501(c)(3) with permission from the California Secretary of State and Attorney General, and its archival assets were officially transferred to the Corte Madera Community Foundation, which had preservation of local history as part of its mission. Responsible stewardship of dozens of boxes of archival materials at first led to transferring them to a secure paid storage facility, but that meant they were virtually inaccessible. Unlike other Marin communities, Corte Madera has no accessible, secure space designated for storage of historic archives.
The Foundation eventually concluded that the only way the archives could be both accessible and securely preserved was to post them on a website that could be maintained in perpetuity, while keeping the original hard copies in a location where there was no risk they might eventually go into a dumpster. (However, such a location hasn’t yet been found.) So, during the late 2015 lead-up to the Corte Madera Centennial Celebration in 2016, we established a Corte Madera Memories website at www.cortemaderamemories.org. It is clearly intended to be a grassroots, volunteer effort rather than a professionally designed website, partly because the cost of maintaining and updating it on a paid basis in perpetuity would be cost-prohibitive, and partly because the varied characteristics of the content are more adaptable to an informal format.
There are many more boxes of archival materials yet to be scanned, and dozens of web pages still to be created. We hope to find additional volunteers with the interest and some basic drag-and-drop skills to produce them. Such volunteers are enthusiastically encouraged to step forward by contacting Corte Madera Heritage & History via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (415) 265-1105.
How it all began...
To view a selection of the photos from the book, A History of Corte Madera – Weaving into the Flow of Time and Place, please click here.
To see the full 1926 aerial photo included in the header of this page, along with the 2016 version of the same area by clicking here.